Spool Five



Journal - Staying Longer in Korea

Author: Eoin Carney Published: Mar, 2021



Wed Mar 24 19:58:04 KST 2021

I mentioned in my first post here that I am currently living in Korea, but that I would soon be returning to my home country, Ireland.

Well, today, I signed on to stay in Korea until September. It’s not too much longer, but it was still a difficult decision to make.

I really love teaching here, even though the hours are pretty tough. I teach at a ‘Hagwon’, which is like a school/academy kids go to after their regular school. There are many kinds of Hagwons - art, English, math, taekwondo, and even ‘jump-rope’ Hagwons. Technically, they are ‘private’ schools, but most kids will attend multiple Hagwons, so there isn’t the same ‘elitist’ connotation to the word ‘private’ as there is back in Ireland, for example. If you are a high-school kid here, you will typically be in school from 9 in the morning until 10 at night. The only reason you ‘leave’ your high-school is if you are attending classes at a Hagwon/private academy.

My particular school teaches kindergarten in the morning and elementary school kids in the afternoon, so my hours are 9am-6pm. Of that 45 hours, technically 5 are for lunch, but that was recently cut shorter (40 min lunch breaks now), and the rest of the time I’m teaching, save for the 5 min breaks between classes, and an hour and a half break on Tuesdays and Thursdays (my co-worker doesn’t even have that though). So, it’s basically around 38 hours of actual teaching a week. When I was teaching at a University, I taught around 10 hours per week, so this was a big jump!

Apart from those really intense hours, though, the teaching itself is not too bad at all. The kids here are well-behaved and studious for the most part. There are usually a handful of classes per week that I’ll dread, but the majority of classes are a lot of fun.

Another great thing about my job are the co-workers and boss. There are some horror stories about teaching in Hagwons in Korea, but I’ve built a really good relationship with the other Korean teachers here, and the boss is really nice. She’s not really a ‘boss’ type at all, just a very poised and graceful human being, she is very easy to be around and very understanding.

Recently, a new teacher joined the school, from the U.S.A. I’m usually someone who gets along relatively easily with most people. But, already, it’s been so difficult working with her. From the outset, we didn’t get along at all, and now we can’t stand each other. This is a new experience for me. I’m used to having laid-back and easy relationships with co-workers, so I’m really not sure what to do about her. I’m just trying to ignore her for now.

If I had come here when I was a bit younger, I definitely would have stayed for a long time. But, I’ve been feeling some urge to get back to Ireland and get my ‘life’ started. That was why I initially planned to leave. They were having trouble finding a replacement, though, so I decided to stay a bit longer. At the very least, I thought, I’ll get to enjoy another hot Korean summer, in place of a wet, likely-unemployed summer in Ireland.

This post is a bit rambley, so I’ll stop soon.

I’ll end by saying that a huge plus for staying in Korea was that this is where I first discovered Gopher/Gemini. Of course, that’s not directly related to Korea at all, but I do enjoy a job where I can just clock the hours, get paid, and then go home and play around with other things easily. This kind of thing was impossible in academia. It always seemed like that was a 24/7 type of job, because even in your ‘free’ time you had to be working, somehow, on research projects, job applications, grant applications, etc.

I guess the best sign that staying was the right decision was that I feel happy and relieved now. I’m really looking forward to lots of cycling here this summer.

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